I know how to use a gun, but I’d rather not.  In a fight, I’d rather walk away.  I imagine you feel the same.

The same rule applies to writing.  I know the big words in the English language.  I’ve taught Latin for decades.  Most of the big words in English come from Latin.  90% of them, in fact. 

In fact, I even have a four volume DVD series dedicated to many of the big words in English.  If you are interested, and if you want to watch me make a fool of myself, check out Word Up

Nonetheless, I avoid using big words.  Like guns, I know how to use them… but, I’d rather not.

I am with Ernest Hemmingway on this one.  He once said, “Poor Faulkner.  Does he really think big emotions come from big words?  He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words.  I know them all right.  But, there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

My goal is simple.  I want to be understood.  I want to make sure my writing is easy to read and easy to understand.

To ensure this happens, I use the 4S rule.  The 4S rule (a rule I picked up from copywriter Bob Bly) is simple.

Use Small words, Short sentences, Short paragraphs and Short sections. 

Basically, I ask myself.  How would Cicero (the ancient Roman author known as the Great Bore to C.S. Lewis) write this?

Then, I do the opposite.

If you make a living by writing, as I do, then consider keeping it simple.